Rail companies' power to raise fares in England to be curbed

 
Rail tickets held out in front of ticket machine Some rail fares have been allowed to rise at 5% above inflation

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The rail industry's power to increase fares in England is to be curbed as part of a government drive to overhaul the rail fare system.

Until now, some regulated fares could potentially have gone up by 9.1% next January.

They will now be capped at 6.1%.

But campaigners say it is not enough, and point out that commuters will still have to pay an above- inflation increase next year.

Regulated fares are those which the government controls, and include season tickets, "anytime" single tickets around major cities, and off-peak inter-city return tickets.

They will go up in 2014 by an average of 4.1%, a number calculated using an average of inflation - as measured by the retail prices index (RPI) for July - plus 1%.

Analysis

The reality is, this change won't benefit that many people, not compared to the numbers that commute on our trains every day.

The Department for Transport hasn't been able to put a figure on it, but I have been told by someone inside one of the train companies that it won't help the vast majority of people who buy season tickets next year.

Don't get me wrong. For those that do benefit there's a significant saving, potentially £30-40 a month. I could use that - frankly, couldn't we all?

But it's not as if fares will go down. Commuters' fares will still go up next January by more than inflation - and that will be for the eleventh year in a row.

Train companies can add up to 5% on top of the average rise, although fares that go up by more than the average must be balanced by others that rise by less or fall.

The government plans to limit that extra increase to 2% in the future. But the provision for the average regulated ticket price to go up by 1% more than inflation remains.

'Taking action'

The move is part of the government's Fares and Ticketing review being published by the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin.

Mr McLoughlin told the BBC he thought rail users would get "quite a lot of benefit" from the cap.

He said: "Commuters will benefit from knowing there is a strict limit on the amount rail companies can put up the cost. People had been seeing 10% rises."

Those commuters who wanted to see more capacity on trains welcomed the government's investment into stations such as London Bridge, he said.

Mr McLoughlin added: "If we didn't take action, people would complain that we are not taking action. We are taking action, we are investing in the railways, we are trying to keep the price down as much as we can."

He said he was "always looking" at how to reduce the pressure on the passenger.

Mix and match

The government will also detail a pilot scheme that could see all long-distance rail tickets sold on a single-leg basis, not as returns.

It says this could allow passengers to more easily "mix and match" different ticket types when planning a return journey.

Other plans to be revealed by the Transport Secretary include:

  • 'touch in, touch out' season tickets that could benefit part-time workers
  • a code of conduct for train companies designed to make it easier for passengers to choose the best ticket for their journey
  • strengthening of rules on how train companies alter opening times at station ticket offices.

Mary Creagh, the shadow transport secretary, said the new cap on fares would be "cold comfort for commuters".

"It has taken 18 months, delivers fare increases of up to 6% and is too little too late," she said.

"This announcement doesn't go as far as Labour's plans which would prevent train companies from increasing fares beyond one per cent above inflation."

Graph showing the increase of rail fares above inflation since 2004
 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 822.

    We are taken by the government and the rail companies as suckers. Which I suspect we are for standing for it! In Germany the trains are clean, punctual and frequent. BUT most of all cheap ! A journey from Roslau to Berlin return costs 32 euros and is approximately the same distance as a journey from Guildford to London. Plus free parking at the station ! German railways are Public owned !

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 646.

    The government's action on this is a joke! When I travel to London, I travel with a friend by car for HALF the cost of the rail fare. That includes the cost of parking in a tube car park and travelling into town by tube. If I take three people in my car we are doing very nicely.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 600.

    The cost is now so high it is financially not viable to work in London. The difference in salaries after tax from working local to working in London does not cover the cost of the the season ticket. We should boycott the trains for a week and see how nervous the government gets when the City turns into a ghost town. This is profiteering plain and simple.

  • rate this
    +50

    Comment number 339.

    If I have to go down to London with work for a day it will cost £99 for a 1 hour journey plus £9 to have the privaledge of parking my car at the station. Often the trains are full and you find yourself standing inbetween the carridges near the toilets. Yet I went to Italy and a return 2 hour journey from Milan cost €70 for a family. The cost is disgraceful.

  • rate this
    +28

    Comment number 321.

    My train was cancelled yesterday. I still don't know whether it was one of the train companies' fault, or the rail management company or one of the many private contractors. So I'll just have to blame the Government.

    What a mess

 

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